The Carolina Hurricanes have only made the playoffs once out of the last 8 seasons. In fact, the last time the Hurricanes made the playoffs, Jeremy Roenick was still playing. Since that year (2009), the Hurricanes have been slowly rolling further and further down the hill that leads to the bottom of the NHL. They did have a good year in 2011, finishing with ninety-one points, only 2 points behind the 8th seed New York Rangers, who had ninety-three points. But in the 3 years that have passed since then, the Hurricanes have been unable to get more than eighty-two points in a season, and they have also failed to finish any better than twelfth in the Eastern Conference.
For each of the last 5 seasons, the Hurricanes have been unable to score more goals than have been scored against them. If you add up all of the goals they’ve scored in the past 5 seasons, you would get 1,008 goals. That doesn’t seem t0o shabby until you see that in the last 5 seasons, the ‘Canes have allowed 1,123 goals against. That’s makes their goal differential per season since 2009 an even minus-23.0. To put that in perspective, the Hurricanes payed Alexander Semin $7 million this year to score twenty-two goals. Now Semin’s contract might not be the best, but it still proves that goals are expensive, and the Hurricanes already have some impressive firepower on their team with Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, and Semin. Even with all of those talented goal scorers, the Hurricanes still have the GD/82 of minus-23.0. I believe that the problem with the Hurricanes lies within their depth.
The Carolina Hurricanes are not a deep team. By that, I mean that beyond a few above-average players, the rest of their players aren’t good enough to play in the roles their forced into. Some of the players on their team are circles that fit perfectly into the round holes the team’s management wants them to fit into, but the rest of the players are square pegs who just can’t fit in, no matter how hard they try. Now I’m sure you’re absolutely blown away by that metaphor, but bear with me here. The Hurricanes have 4 guys who truly belong in their top-6 forwards core. Those guys are Staal, Skinner, Semin, and Staal (the other one). That leaves 2 holes on their top 2 lines, and they end up being filled with bottom-6 guys like Jiri Tlusty and Nathan Gerbe. Don’t get me wrong, Gerbe and Tlusty are good players in their own way, but they aren’t going to thrive in the top-6, because they’re simply not good enough. Now for the bottom-6, I think that they have 4 players who are good, and 3 players who are serviceable. The good bottom-6 guys are Gerbe, Tlusty, Riley Nash, and the newly signed Jay McClement. The 3 who are serviceable are Patrick Dwyer, Elias Lindholm, and Andrei Loktionov. Dwyer is what he is, but with Lindholm and Loktionov, they just haven’t played enough to show wether or not they’re NHL ready. I actually believe that Lindholm could use another year in the AHL. So when you break down Carolina’s forwards core, they have 4 top-6 guys and 4 bottom-6 guys who are going to contribute enough for the Hurricanes to make the playoffs. That leaves 4 roster spots that are just being filled by plugs.
I actually like the Hurricanes defensive core, but I think that they are going to need more offense from their backend if they don’t want to go golfing next spring. They have Andrej Sekera who contributed 11 goals and 44 points for them, which isn’t too bad at all. Joni Pitkanen was injured all year, and had he been healthy he would have given them at least a 30 point year. Justin Faulk is one of the better up-and-coming defensemen in the league, and he put up a solid 32 points, while still playing amazingly well in his own end. But after those 2 guys, the next highest scoring defensemen they had were Ron Hainsey and Jay Garrison, who each had 4 goals and 15 points. I like Hainsey a lot, and I think he could be a good number 4 or 5 guy, but in Carolina, he’s been forced to play bigger minutes than he should handle. Garrison isn’t as good as Hainsey, but he’s still serviceable. Ryan Murphy is the big X-factor on the Carolina blue line. Murphy was taken 12th overall in 2011, and this was his 1st season with the ‘Canes. Murphy is supposed to have the potential to be a powerplay quarterback, and his offensive upside is tremendous as he has dominated in the CHL and AHL, but in 48 games this year, Murphy only had 2 goals and 12 points. If Ryan Murphy can tap into his potential within the next few years, the Hurricanes are going to have an amazing one-two punch of Faulk and Murphy.
I’m obviously not a general manager in the NHL, and I never will be, but I think that I’ve made a few points that could be valuable to the Hurricanes. Misusing players is one of the most often made mistakes in the NHL, and it’s hard to find the proper place for a player if you don’t have anyone better than him, but he’s still not good enough. I think the Hurricanes are a victim of being a small-market team who can’t get some of the better free agents. If they continue to draft well and be patient with their players, giving them time to develop in the minor leagues, than maybe in a few years we’ll see the Hurricanes in a playoff spot. The Hurricanes 1st (preseason) game of the year will be on September 21st against the Columbus Blue Jackets.